Overview of ARC7

The 7th ASEF Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC7) was hosted by the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA), in Bucharest, Romania, on 12-14 May 2019. It brought together over 150 leaders of higher education institutions, experts, government officials and 51 student leaders from 51 Asian and European ASEM partner countries to discuss how can higher education take action towards the sustainable development goals.


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call for action to shape a better future for all. Universities have a key responsibility to tackle complex societal challenges of our times, manifested in these Goals. ARC7 invited Asian and European higher education  and student leaders to share how their organisations contribute to policy development and take action towards the Agenda 2030 and to get inspiration from their peers’ strategies.

ARC7 offered a creative space for knowledge exchange on implementing a whole-of-institution approach on sustainable development, teaching the next generation of leaders and thinkers to act sustainably and ethically; conducting research that leads to positive change in our world; and engaging communities outside the walls of academia. The conference also explores how university and student leaders from Asia and Europe can work together towards a “future we want”.

ARC7 explored how higher education can take action  towards achieving the sustainable development goals on three different levels:

  • Taking Action at Home— SDGs as Core Pillars of University Governance

Participants were discussing visions and missions of universities within the framework of the sustainable development agenda, and the ability of institutions to link knowledge, research, education to contribute to the SDGs. The importance of cherishing values (like academic freedom, autonomy, participation) and ways of balancing it with the more “technical” or “utilitarian” tasks and demands (like employability, skills for the labour market) were also discussed in the sessions.

  • Taking Action at  Community  Level— SDGs as Drivers of University Social Impact

Participants reviewed the different approaches how higher education actors (universities, students, regional networks) can play together to realise the SDGs, engage local communities and civil society in providing sustainable research and teaching, how can they translate the global goals into local actions, and what is the added value that SDGs can provide in these partnerships.

  • Taking Action at the International Level —  SDGs as a Catalyst to Reorient Internationalisation

Participants explored what kind of international partnerships do universities engage in, what is the shared purpose of these, and how do they contribute to the SDGs? Participants have also discussed how persons and ideas flow across borders, and how to generate dynamics among different systems and silos of research and education for the sake of the SDGs. 


The 7th ASEF Rectors’ Conference and Student’s Forum (ARC7) is co-organised by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA) with the support of the Romanian Ministry of National Education, between 11-15 May 2019 in Bucharest, Romania.

The ARC7 Students’ Forum | 11–15 May 2019

    • 8-week Online Preparatory Phase  with webinars,  individual and team tasks
    • 4-day Students’ Forum and joint ventures sessions with the Rectors’ Conference
    • Plenary and working group sessions, speed-dating sessions with rectors, policy makers and ministers 

The ARC7 Rectors’ Conference |  12-14 May 2019

    • 2-day  Rectors’ Conference  and joint sessions with the Students’ Forum
    • Thought-provocative panel discussions  and  interactive  working group sessions

The ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting |  15-16 May 2019


ARC7 Students’ Forum Policy Recommendations 

The 51 student leaders from the 51 ASEM partner countries were discussing, debating and shaping the ARC7 Students’ Policy Recommendations (PRs) for 3 days. According to their reflections (watch the first overARCing Idea video), it was challenging to find a shared point of view of challenges and find expressions and language which was acceptable for all representatives from 51 counties across Asia and Europe. Their discussions were comprehensive and inclusive, and their final PRs emerged from deliberate and thoughtful conversations. The students stressed the urgency of “university governance adopting a lens of efficiency and action”and called upon the ASEM Governments to take action on 3 major fields. They have concluded that “It is of the utmost importance that SDGs are present in governance conversations, lecture halls, and student gatherings”

Read the ARC7 Students’ Policy Recommendations here.

ARC7 Rectors’ Conference Policy Recommendations 

Over 150 university leaders, experts and policy makers discussed the ARC7 Rectors’ Policy Recommendations. The Conference resulted in Commitments by higher education institutions (HEIs) from both regions, and also proposed Policy Recommendations to feed into the deliberations and outcomes of the 7th ASEM Education Ministers Meeting (ASEM ME7). The policy recommendations were proposed and reviewed by the ARC7 organising partners – European University Association (EUA), International Association of Universities (IAU), ASEAN University Network (AUN) – discussed and finalised by the ARC7 Rectors’ Conference participants.

The participants recommended the ASEM Ministers of Education to “include the SDGs into the goals, priorities and activities of the ASEM Education Process (AEP).” “Using the framework of the SDGs provides an opportunity to relate national priorities and interests to the wider context of a global environment and a global realm of knowledge and research. It enables Asian and European governments and higher education institutions to develop stronger education and research partnerships to generate a better future for all.”

Other recommendations were concerned with support for higher education institutions to engage with the Agenda 2030; Incentives and support for education and research collaboration among universities and with other societal actors, at national and international levels; Developing research and knowledge-based policy agendas and informed decision-making in democratic societies; Acknowledging and supporting the role of higher education in contributing to equity, inclusion and lifelong learning; Supporting higher education internationalisation in line with the goals of the Agenda 2030. 

Read the ARC7 Rectors’ Policy Recommendations here.


We are proud that ARC7 is co-designed and intellectually supported by major university and student associations of Asia and Europe: ASEAN University Network (AUN); European University Association (EUA); International Association of Universities (IAU); Erasmus Student Network (ESN), European Students’ Union (ESU) and the Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association (EMA).

Co-chaired by:


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